September 21, 2005

Lewis Out For Season With Knee Injury: 34-year old Lewis faces long, difficult rehabilitation

The Saints placed wide receiver/kick returner Michael Lewis on injured reserve today, ending his season.

Lewis suffered torn knee ligaments against the Giants Monday night, and an MRI confirmed the diagnosis this week.

One of the most inspiring stories in Saints history, the diminutive 5'8, 170 pound Lewis began his career at the age of 29 after almost giving up on his career, which had toured minor and arena leagues across the country. Lewis was working as a beer truck delivery man when he managed a tryout with the Saints late in the 2000 season. After being cut by the Eagles in training camp earlier that year, he was fortunate to spend some unremarkable, unpublicized time on the Saints' practice squad in 2000. In 2001, he worked very hard on his receiving and ball handling skills.

At this size, Lewis had little chance of competing on offense. But on special teams Lewis worked tirelessly as both a returner - the job that earned him a Pro Bowl - and an excellent coverage man. It was his unbelievable foot speed that got him in the door with the Saints, but his tireless work ethic that made the team. Lewis will need to renew his toughness again to recover from this knee injury.

In 2001, Lewis had problems holding on to the ball on returns. An ankle injury and his struggles limited him to only 8 games in 2001. The Saints also didn't need Lewis much that year, they had a young runningback named Deuce McAllister who handled most of the return duties.

In December of 2001 in Tampa Bay, Lewis was the first man down on kickoff coverage and missed then-Bucs RB Aaron Stecker. As Stecker raced down field, so did Lewis, and 86 yards later Lewis made the tackle at the opposite end of the field.

In 2002, his work finally paid off. Lewis became an outstanding punt and kickoff return man, scoring three touchdowns on returns including two in one game against the Redskins - only the seventh man in NFL history to do so and the first in team history. Lewis also set NFL returns for total return yardage and managed eight catches for 200 yards including three catches over 40 yards. He and fellow special teams soldier Fred McAfee made the Pro Bowl in 2002.

In 2003 and 2004, Lewis continued to progress as a receiver and returner. He scored his first and so far only offensive touchdown in Tampa Bay in 2003 on an impossible-looking catch in double coverage over the middle. A valuable community member and teammate through this Saints coaching administration, Lewis' veteran presence and explosion will be missed this season.

WR Donte Stallworth stepped in on punt returns for Lewis Monday night and will do so this season. RB Aaron Stecker, RB Fred McAfee and WR Az Hakim - once he returns from a hamstring injury - will participate on returns as well in Lewis' absence.

The Saints signed veteran WR Nate Poole, who had been with the Saints this offseason, to replace Lewis on the roster.

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